All was set: the sun had been shining all week, the detailed route description and maps were downloaded onto various devices, transport to the start was organised. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot it seems.
Before she left home, Lin discovered a puncture, which was swiftly fixed by Chris when they met in Honiton. Problem one solved. Liz arrived at the start on time, despite having cycled 27 hilly miles from Axminster, and all riders moved towards the start line when a deluge sent everyone rushing for shelter under trees. The sun reappeared after about 3 miles, so raincoats were removed. Problem 2 solved.
All three routes followed the same road until the first route split after 2 miles, with John leading the Spinners. At this point, Lin and Chris abandoned the Spinners and followed the shorter routes, but after several frantic phone calls re-joined the Spinners. Problem 3 solved.
The route was beautiful: Iain Crabtree had obviously chosen a route through the prettiest villages in Somerset and then selected lovely settings for the three food stops. At the first, in an orchard, Jennie ate the best walnut cake ever and Sue decided to check that the cider was good: it was.
Tubeless tyres are the best. Until they aren’t as Liz discovered. Ten miles in, near Ilminster, Liz had a puncture. Again, Chris came to the rescue. Although the other four riders set off without them, Liz and Chris rode at a great pace to re-join the group at the first food stop. Problem 4 solved.
All was well and we settled into an easy spin, although we were joined by Graham, the ‘sweep wagon’ (a man on an electric bike) at Long Sutton, who patiently followed us all the way home, even posing for photos with us and pointing out the last thatched windmill in the country.
Following a route in reverse can be disconcerting as we found when, between Low Ham and High Ham (yes, the names are a clue) we suddenly and unexpectedly faced the steepest climb of the ride.
The next challenge was ‘the worst farm in Somerset’, according to Graham: imagine the combination of mud, slurry and rainwater about 3 cm deep. The bikes were so clogged up with muck that John suddenly shot off the road into a hedge, leaving only a rear wheel on view. No lasting damage was done. Problem 5 sorted.
After 65.5 miles – with a bit more for Lin and Chris – we arrived at the Finish, only to find that the BBQ and refreshments had been packed away and the raffle draw was underway. Luckily, Liz had her own supply of flapjack to fuel her journey home, which totalled a staggering 110 miles!
It was a great day out with lovely, friendly company in a beautiful part of the country, with the added bonus of supporting a worthy charity appeal for the new breast cancer unit at Yeovil Hospital. Thanks go to Iain Crabtree and his vast support team for organising a wonderful event.